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Old 03-07-2016, 08:58 AM   #1
Jürgen Hubert
Jürgen Hubert's Avatar
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Kassel, Germany
Default Revising GURPS Magic

As we all know, GURPS Magic for the 4th Edition suffered from a lack of playtest. The previous editions had some issues which were not resolved, and the new edition introduced some new problems. Still, while many love Ritual Path Magic or other magic systems now available for GURPS, I am loath to throw out the standard GURPS Magic system entirely. It is still the best-supported magic system for GURPS, with the widest range of spell effects and options. Therefore, my goal is to tweak the system, adjusting individual spells and rules as opposed to throwing everything out and starting over.

Therefore I will be going through all the chapters of GURPS Magic, in order. My comments are informed by both playing in and running campaigns with these rules - which involved players who were rather rule-savvy and prone to min-maxing. Still, I am sure that many of you have discovered different problems with the rules and developed your own fixes - so please add your own comments as I pass through the chapters.

Principles of Magic

Casting Spells (p.7-10)

A campaign I have played in involved 500+ point character, and a Magical Aptitude maximum of 20. This resulted in multiple mage characters with a minimum spell skill level of 30 (!), which in turn reduced both initial spell costs and spell maintenance by four. The latter in particular was a problem, because the first thing the mages did in the morning was to cast numerous protective or boosting spells, which caused them to leave the non-mages in the dust when it came to raw power.

A simple solution would be to just restrict Magical Aptitude, but I think there should be campaigns where taking lots of Magical Aptitude should be permissible. In other words, it should still bring a benefit, but not such a large one in order to keep the non-mage characters in play without letting them feel impotent.

Another issue that is bugging me are the “threshold” skill level - having a spell skill level of 15 is much better than one of 14, and a level of 20 is much better than one of 19, and so forth. I’d like to smoothe the curve to make this less of an issue.

Therefore I propose the following rules changes:

1. The “Alternate Magic Rituals” rule on p. 9 is not optional.

2. Higher spell skill levels do not longer automatically reduce energy cost or time required to cast. Instead, a mage can accept a penalty to the effective spell skill level:

-3 for each point of energy cost reduction
-3 for each halving of the casting time

3. The effective spell skill level is further reduced by the number and type of spell maintained. This penalty is called the “Maintenance Penalty” and calculated as follows:

-3 for each spell that requires concentration, -1 for other spells
-1 for each point of energy cost reduction of maintained spells (up to the maximum cost reduction at the time of casting). For example, reducing the maintenance cost for a spell by 2 would add -2 to the Maintenance Penalty, and it would only be possible if the caster took a penalty of -6 or more to the initial casting roll in order to reduce the energy cost.

4. If some effect “attacks” the spell (such as Dispel Magic), then the spell “resists” with the unmodified spell skill level minus the Maintenance Penalty.

These new rules permit for a bit more flexibility while forcing mages to be more choosy when maintaining spells. You can no longer as easily cast all the resistance and buff spells you know - since the Maintenance Penalty is larger, you need to prioritize. Furthermore, accepting a large penalty in order to reduce casting cost and just rolling again until you succeed (a rather boring strategy) is of limited utility if such costly spells make all your other spells less effective. Finally, Point 4 reduces bookkeeping and again encourages mages not to stretch themselves too thinly.

I don’t have a problem with the other rules in this chapter at the moment, although I will return to them at a later point when discussing individual spells.
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